Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #258

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Wildman (E-Mail)


Hunted by everyone and their mothers, Peter Parker is forced to quit being Spider-Man! But a man with his sense of responsibility cannot be stopped from serving his city... as PRODIGY!

Unfortunately, Prodigy is in serious trouble, reduced to jumping around the room like mad trying to avoid the now-gigantic Jack O'Lantern and Conundrum.

Story 'Man of the People'

Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a delaying tactic, and Jack finally catches him, opens wide, and swallows him like a jagged little pill. So while Norman Osborn, Flash Thompson, and the Sufindian Ambassador are sitting around wondering if Prodigy can rescue his daughter (in a one-page interlude) Prodigy appears to be plummeting into a bottomless pit of fire. However, recalling his last meeting with Jack O'Lantern, Prodigy remembers that he can manipulate the appearance of reality. "But how can I combat what my own senses are telling me?" Then he remembers his spider sense. Bursting out of Jack's chest, Prodigy closes his eyes and lets his spider sense guide him. Conundrum is an easy victory, but Jack sics his cat on Prodigy and manages to escape. Conundrum, now in a headlock, offers Prodigy the chance to share in the power of the Hand of Mumthazi, but he's already admitted to kidnapping the Ambassador's daughter, and that's all Prodigy wants.

After a brief scuffle with the police outside the old Irish pub, Prodigy cold-cocks Conundrum again and goes after the girl, having previously convinced his blockheaded foe to cough up the location. He finds Conundrum's hideout and frees the girl, who promptly plants one on his cheek ("where were you when I was single?!") Unfortunately, Jack O'Lantern reappears, having followed Prodigy to find the girl. Wielding the Hand of Mumthazi, Jack's just about to zap him with it when a bullet catches him in the back. Seems Norman Osborn was tipped off by Billy Walters as to where Prodigy was going, Prodigy having run into Billy outside Maguire's.

Prodigy loudly complains that killing Jack was unnecessary, but is stopped short by Norman who points out that the Hand is supposed to give unlimited power to whoever possesses it. "Do you know for sure you can stand up to power of that magnitude?"

The nest day, Norman Osborn is giving a press conference with Prodigy and the Ambassador. After the usual Osborn-style rhetoric, he turns the podium over to Prodigy who makes the surprising announcement that he has discovered a Spider-Man costume in Conundrum's apartment, along with sufficient evidence to suggest he or Jack O'Lantern framed Spidey for the assault on Norman Osborn. That, combined with the Trapster's confession, completely clears the wall-crawler of all charges.

Norman, as you might expect, is less than pleased at this turn of events. On the way back home, Peter muses over the last few weeks, feeling lousy about planting the evidence in Conundrum's hideout but still feeling great about getting the best of Norman Osborn for a change. And despite the fact that it's been fun to be someone else for a change, and with Mary Jane's (eventual) approval, Peter decides that now that Spidey's name is cleared, there's no reason not to be Spider-Man.

Lest we believe that Peter deserves a 100% happy ending for a change, the final page shifts to a scene with Norman Osborn and the obviously-not-deceased Jack O'Lantern. It seems Norman's plan was to recover the Hand himself, but he figures that since he sponsered Prodigy's efforts, "the nation of Sufind owes me a debt of gratitude... and I intend to take advantage of that!"

General Comments

Well, it's about time Spidey put one over on Norman. The look on his face when Peter pulled out that "evidence" was worth the cover price by itself. And I have to say I was wondering how they would end Identity Crisis, and while this and Trapster's confession both seemed a little rushed, I suppose they work. Besides, I just wanted to see Norman on the short end for once. As for Conundrum, well, the jury's still out on the human jigsaw. I like the whole veil of secrecy thing, and his shifting face is really cool if you imagine sound effects for it, but he seemed to be kind of a lightweight. What exactly can this guy do other than vanish? I'll take Jack O'Lantern any day.

A couple of plot holes/goofy ideas I noticed. First of all, if this Hand of Mumthazi has all the power it is supposed to have, why the &$#* are they putting it in public? Seriously, keep that thing under lock and key! (All you'd have to do is make a replica and your average John Q. Tourist would be too dumb to know the difference) Secondly, you'd think someone would check Jack O'Lantern to make sure he's really dead, right? Then again, he's good with illusions, maybe he looked dead. At least rip off that pumpkin and find out who he is!

Finally, I have to say I'm very sorry to see John Marc DeMatteis leave. In my opinion, he is the best writer on the Spider books by far and they are diminished by his abscence. Come back soon, J.M.!

Overall Rating

A few stretches of credibility, but Norman Osborn finally gets his nose tweaked. Four webs.

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Wildman (E-Mail)